A few commenters asked for institutional aid/net tuition maps. Since net tuition (tuition minus grant aid) includes institutional aid/grants, I will focus on net tuition in this post. The one caveat is that per-student aid data is only available for “full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates,” meaning that this is really an estimate of net tuition for those students. It is likely a reasonable estimate of net tuition for students in general, but this is not always the case (e.g. if a college front-loads institutional grants to lure students in that first year—see the graph here). Also note that I had to report 2010-11 figures for data availability reasons, and that a negative number for net tuition doesn’t quite mean that the students are “paid” to go to college; it just means that the student has some extra grant money after paying tuition to help pay for books, transportation, and room and board.
Below are the enrollment-weighted, average net tuition maps for four- and two-year colleges.
When compared to the published tuition maps, the same general patterns largely hold for four-year colleges: Net tuition is highest in the Northeast, and lowest in the non-coastal Southwest. But there are some noteworthy differences: Nevada drops out of the lowest category, and New Mexico, Arkansas, and Mississippi join. And some states in the Plains and Rocky Mountains are relatively less affordable on a net tuition basis than they appeared when rating colleges only on tuition.
The changes for two-year colleges are more substantial. Many Great Lakes and Plains states compared relatively favorably based on published tuition but are among the most expensive states to attend community college on a net tuition basis. In contrast, almost all Southern states have very affordable community colleges.